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Friday, 24 October 2003
Page: 21696

Mr CREAN (Leader of the Opposition) (10:14 AM) —Mr President, I have already had the opportunity to welcome you and Madame Liu to this country. I now have the great honour of welcoming you to our parliament. Your historic presence in this parliament—so soon after your inauguration as the President of the People's Republic of China—testifies to the importance and the continuity of the relationship between our two great peoples. This occasion is, indeed, a celebration of that continuity.

On the visit to Australia four years ago by your predecessor, President Jiang Zemin, he paid tribute to the pioneers of the relationship between our two countries. President Jiang said then:

There is an old Chinese saying: when you go to the well to draw water, remember who dug the well.

So it is with great pride that I note the distinguished presence in our gallery today of one of those well-diggers—former Prime Minister of Australia Gough Whitlam. Australians of course remember his efforts then: his groundbreaking trip to Beijing as Leader of the Opposition in July 1971; the establishment of full diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China in December 1972; and the first visit to China by an Australian Prime Minister, 30 years ago this month.

So it is in this context that we do look forward to the further development of the new trade framework agreement signed today. We are also delighted with the $25 billion liquid natural gas deal signed last year, and the prospect of more cooperation on energy security between Australia and China. These achievements, Mr President, are further examples of 30 years of hard work developing relations between our two countries begun by Prime Minister Whitlam and sustained by his successors. Continuing that legacy of course is a priority for Australia, and it certainly is for me.

On this historic occasion, we also remember the indispensable condition on which we established this relationship—our commitment to One China. My father, interestingly, was another one of those well-diggers. As Gough Whitlam's Treasurer, he accompanied the Prime Minister on that trip in 1973. He had the opportunity to meet with Premier Zhou Enlai, the man who brought about the historic detente in China's foreign policy with the West. My father described Premier Zhou as a man of natural dignity and obvious strength of character, a man of reason and cultivation. Mr President, they are the qualities of leadership and we must emulate them as we work together to make our region economically stronger, free from the threat of terrorism, and committed to the principles of international law and human rights.

Together we do face some critical issues, particularly on the matters of security. Among them is the threat of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. We see a crucial role for China in progressing initiatives to ensure that North Korea turns away from this destructive path.

On behalf of the parliament and the Australian people, let me also congratulate you, Mr President, for the recent success in manned space flight. The world has marvelled at China's recent economic development, but this stunning achievement shows your nation's technological advance as well. It symbolises the sense of purpose driving China and its leadership today, the greatness of your people, and their contribution to world civilisation.

As China seeks to fulfil its destiny as a leader in regional and international cooperation, no country is better placed to assist it and encourage it than Australia. This is something on which there is bipartisan agreement. That is why my first overseas visit as opposition leader was to your country. I am delighted that our relationship is gaining new strength, and I want to turn it to our mutual advantage. Mr President, we are old friends, but there are unlimited opportunities for new partnerships. It is in the spirit of goodwill, the purpose of peace and friendship and the determination to be partners in the development of our region that I join the Prime Minister in the warmest of welcomes to this parliament of the people of Australia.

The SPEAKER —Mr President, it gives me great pleasure to invite you to address the assembled members and senators.

Members and senators rising and applauding—